“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy…for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
We are saved by God’s sovereign grace alone, through faith alone by Christ alone for God’s glory alone. But we will go through a process of sanctification and be comformed to his image. What I am attempting to say is not email, voice mail or snail mail it is heart mail. I only know that in order to change and change I must, that the furnace can not be side stepped. Only when you grow sick and tired of your self and you will, then you of your own free will enter the furnace. You will cry for purging of your sin nature rather than pardon for your sins. The children of Israel were told, “But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. (Deut 4:20).
Those are ominous words at first reading. Peter tells those persecuted Christians thousands of years ago that trials are fiery. This verse can say easily, “Don’t be amazed by the burning!” I am amazed that this could happen to me. My present suffering is agony on fire and a trial by fire. It burns. It injures. It hurts so badly. My tears are like the crackling of the flames. When I am dumb with silence I just feel the steady heat, I have a steady glow as all the moisture in me is turned into a drought (Psalm 32:4). I am dehydrated. I thirst! My soul is a dry and thirsty land where there is no water and I thirst for God (Psalm 63:1-3)! Of course it burns, scorching fire is involved. If by chance you hear or read these words and you are experiencing pain, you are not unspiritual, it does not mean you are carnal because you are in pain.
There is dignity in this time even when you feel all your self-respect has been stripped away. People will accuse you or worse counsel you during this time. This is a matter of intimacy. Man’s opinion or man pleasing is the heart of all lethal religion. Of the Pharisees who refused the fire of Christ’s words it says, “All their works they do for to be seen of men!” (Mt. 23:5). Do you and I feel absolved from this sort of criminal act? The Message version says, “Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next.” Man’s opinion of you must become fuel for the furnace or you will never benefit from this trial. You will be useless for the Master’s work. When you come to the realization of how many things you have done to be seen of men instead of God, it will break your heart!
You and I feel disfigured on the way to be transfigured. What you were, what you know does not matter at all in these flames. Self esteem and confidence-what are they in this furnace that incinerates all things?
A healthy view of self is not against scripture and impish false humility is loathsome to God but self hatred has its place as well. But everything is an issue to the flames including your identity and titles. Your history and good works are but dung if you would win Christ! (Phil 3:8). Nothing can douse the inferno. Man centered theology cannot help you. Don’t speak to me of psychology. Leave me and my Beloved alone. You cannot know. Only he can. What you and I know about God is tested and if it is worthless it is reduced to ashes as the fire licks at our mind and soul and removes it to where we have more questions than answers!
If you are suffering, you are suffering like Christ did. To be like Jesus is the prayer of any child of God who has a sane understanding of what it is to be a Christian. I am stunned as I read that people “did not accept deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection!” (Heb 11:35). What kind of mindset is that compared to what we hear preached in the pop theology of the emergent, church growth cults of today?
But could you look at him in the face, touch his nail scarred hands, the wound that was from a lance thrust in his side and look down art his nail pierced feet never having endured suffering and trial? Is Jesus in his suffering so disfigured in your eyes that you do not see the beauty he has? Paul prayed for “the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings!” (Phil 3:10). The Murdock translation says, “That I might know Jesus, and the efficacy of his resurrection; and might participate in his sufferings, and be assimilated to his death.” The effectiveness of his resurrection life can only be appreciated when you are personally involved with a suffering for Christ and are absorbed into his death! Is this suffering Jesus someone you avoid? It is a fellowship and companionship. Those who associate with him do suffer. But we suffer with him that we might reign with him. (2 Tim 3:12).
As hard as it is to accept, a radiance and splendor of his presence is going to be seen in you like never before. You are being integrated into all that Jesus is, in this furnace. The spirit of glory and of God will rest on you.
This trial is familiar yet unique. It is a test. Why now? Either things were going so well, or things are bad enough! Now a test comes! It is not a pop quiz, it is like a pop SAT. Trials are not strange. It is not an accident. This is not THE trial with no obstacles afterward. There are many ordeals in this life (James 1:2-3). God says “Don’t be confused. It is on purpose. You must be tested and proven.” God is not after you he is after something in you. Like a dangerous glaucoma of pride, or the cancer of bitterness, any soul damning desires that lurk like a cancer that pretends to be benign when it actually can turn terminal in an instant.
But no matter despite what Peter our brother in Christ wrote to us, my first reaction to life’s complications is that they are strange and I am confused. I have been here before but it is a different scene.